- Raised by his maternal grandparents after his parents divorced.
- Started playing piano at 5 years old.
- His hero as a child was Steve Austin, the main character in The Six Million Dollar Man. He later used Steve Austin as an alias for hotels while on tour.
- Played tenor sax in his high school's jazz and marching bands.
- Appeared in high-school productions of Jesus Christ Superstar (as Judas) and The Music Man (as Professor Harold Hill).
- Left college after a year and relocated to Cleveland in order to pursue music full-time.
- Appeared in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett in a bar scene with a fictional band called the Problems.
- Worked as a janitor and assistant engineer at Right Track, a Cleveland recording studio. The owner allowed him to record during off-hours.
- Participated in the first Lollapalooza tour.
- Fought for his release from the TVT record label after it attempted to exert control over his follow-up to the million-selling debut Nine Inch Nails album Pretty Hate Machine. He eventually signed with Interscope.
- Signed Marilyn Manson to his nascent label, Nothing Records, in 1993 and produced Manson's breakthrough 1996 album Antichrist Superstar.
- Assembled the soundtrack for the movie Natural Born Killers.
- Wrote the song "Hurt," a minor hit in 1995 that was later covered by Johnny Cash.